Wedges are very important clubs. Next to your putter and your driver, you will probably hit more wedge shots in a round than any other club. That fact and the fact they are used closer to the hole means they are critical for taking strokes off your score.
The four wedges are the pitching, gap, sand and lob wedge. Now you may not have all of these wedges in your bag but these are the possible clubs to use. Many pros and better players use this same wedge makeup. It’s something everyone should consider.
Wedge Shot Club Choice
There are many types of shots that you encounter from 100 yards and in. Here’s some examples for an average golfer. Big hitters can add 20 yards to the shots and short hitters can subtract 20 yards.
- 100 yards – PW, GW, SW
- 80 yards – GW, SW
- 60 yards – GW, SW, LW
- 40 yards – SW, LW
- 20 yards – SW, LW
- 10 yards – PW, GW, SW, LW, putter
- 5 yards – PW, GW, SW, LW, putter
- Fringe or closely mown area – PW, GW, SW, LW, putter, hybrid, wood, iron
- sand (greenside) – PW, GW, SW, LW
- sand (20-30 yards) – PW, GW, SW, LW
- greenside light rough – PW, GW, SW, LW, hybrid, wood, iron
- greenside heavy rough – PW, GW, SW, LW,
On the other hand you could use just one club for all these shots. You can close or open the face, take shorter back swings, and hit low and high to manufacture any of the shots above. The wedge game is a matter of feel and style.
The advantage of using different lofted wedges is you can use fewer swings. You are not as dependent on feel or having practiced a variety of shots. With one swing and four clubs you can cover a lot of distances. If you don’t get to play or practice often this may be a better approach.
And there are many other possibilites. The lie may vary within each type of shot and require specialized club selection. The point is there are many situations and many possible choices. Having a full arsenal of weapons is important.
There are two main aspects of wedge design that effects how that club performs. One is obviously loft. Wedges are designed to hit the ball high and stop quickly. The other is bounce and leading edge and sole design.
The loft of the various wedges varies and these days you can really choose what works for you. Generally the pitching wedge is from 44-48 degrees, the gap wedge is from 48-52 degrees, the sand wedge is 54-58 degrees and the lob wedge is 58-62 degrees.
Sole design effects how the club interacts with whatever type of lie the ball is sitting on…sand, hard ground, short grass, long grass, and very long grass. Each may require differing sole characteristics. In fact sand is a unique lie within it self. Different shots may be required depending on wether the sand is soft, corse, wet, or deep.
The sand wedge as we know it was designed by Gene Sarazan in 1930. He conceived of the idea of adding a rounded edge to the sole. This feature is called bounce. The idea was that bounce helped the club glide through the sand rather than digging in. Sarazan also added lead weight to the sole to give it more weight to get through the sand.
With today’s wedges you can vary the amount of bounce depending on what the club will be used for. More bounce is very forgiving on sand shots but not so good for tight lies around the green. Good players may vary the bounce depending on their skill and style. Some may vary bounce depending on course conditions. Dry, hard courses with a lot of tight lies, may mean they will need wedges with less bounce.
Besides sand shots bounce is helpful for lies in deep rough. The bounce helps the club get through the grass. Many times a shot from a bad lie in the rough must be played as if it were a sand shot. In the sand and the rough, having the right tool for the job is important.
The swing weight of a wedge is also important. All wedge shots require quite a bit of “feel” so it’s important to be able to feel the clubhead. The typical swing weight for men’s irons is D1 but for most wedges swing weight is around D5. My opinion is that feeling the clubhead is important for every club but for the wedge it’s critical. Many advanced players often add lead tape to their wedges to make sure they can feel that clubhead.
What is a Gap Wedge
As I mentioned in other sections, iron lofts have been getting lowered by manufacturers for years. The typical pitching wedge these days has a loft of 44-48 degrees. It used to be 48-50. The standard sand wedge loft (which hasn’t changed much) is about 56 degrees. That difference has left a distance “gap” between these two clubs. That distance could be as much as 15 to 20 yards.
To address this issue manufactureres and players have therefore added a new wedge in between the pitching and sand with an intermediate loft. The Gap wedge was born. The loft is typically 48-52 degrees.
Why not just choke up on a pitching wedge? Good question. For that matter why not just open the face of the sand wedge a little. If you want to save a little money and keep your bag a little lighter, that’s just what you can do. But if you don’t feel comfortable “manufacturing” a shot (as if all shots are not manufactured) then by all means give a gap wedge a ride. It’s is nice to feel you can put the same swing on every shot and the only thing that changes is the distance the ball goes.
What are the leading wedges to consider?
For several years now the gold standard has been the Cleveland wedges and right now the CG10 is the favored version and the Golf Digest Hot Pick. The Titleist Vokey is also preferred by many of the games best players. There are many good weges out there and their design is not rocket science or paticularly high tech or requiring special materials. Find one that feels and looks right to you. Oh yea, and also get an important job done.